by Alissa Nutting
Summary: Celeste Price is an eighth-grade English teacher in suburban Tampa. She's undeniably attractive. She drives a red Corvette with tinted windows. Her husband, Ford, is rich, square-jawed, and devoted to her.
But Celeste's devotion lies elsewhere. She has a singular sexual obsession—fourteen-year-old boys. Celeste pursues her craving with sociopathic meticulousness and forethought; her sole purpose in becoming a teacher is to fulfill her passion and provide her access to her compulsion. As the novel opens, fall semester at Jefferson Jr. High is beginning.
In mere weeks, Celeste has chosen and lured the lusciously naive Jack Patrick into her web. Jack is enthralled and in awe of his teacher, and, most important, willing to accept Celeste's terms for a secret relationship—car rides after school; rendezvous at Jack's house while his single father works late; body-slamming encounters in Celeste's empty classroom between periods.
Ever mindful of the danger—the perpetual risk of exposure, Jack's father's own attraction to her, and the ticking clock as Jack leaves innocent boyhood behind—the hyperbolically insatiable Celeste bypasses each hurdle with swift thinking and shameless determination, even when the solutions involve greater misdeeds than the affair itself. In slaking her sexual thirst, Celeste Price is remorseless and deviously free of hesitation, a monstress driven by pure motivation. She deceives everyone, and cares nothing for anyone or anything but her own pleasure.
With crackling, rampantly unadulterated prose, Tampa is a grand, uncompromising, seriocomic examination of want and a scorching literary debut.
Source: I purchased a Kindle copy.
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Hmm. How do I talk about this book?
If you can make it through the beginning of the book, you’ll probably be able to get through the rest of it. Maybe.
See, the thing is.. I’m not easily offended, grossed out, horrified, or taken aback. Throw the most grotesque prose at me and I’m loving it.
But Tampa was almost too much.
It didn’t just push the limits of my comfort zone, it repeatedly punched my comfort zone in the face and I could either adapt and continue reading or stop, utterly horrified. I opted to continue. It was often hard to do so. Parts of the novel are so detailed and vulgar, actively describing the act of sex. That's nothing new to readers of any kind of dertailed romance novel or erotica, but it's not something you often experience with literary fiction and it's definitely NEVER involving an adult with a child. So, it's obviously not comfortable at all.
Tampa took you into the mind of Celeste, a 26 year old beautiful middle school teacher who lusts after her students. I knew what the book was about when I started reading, but I don’t think I was prepared for Celeste. She didn’t lust after teen boys in the way that I was expecting. I guess I expected her to be unhappy in her marriage and go after some guys who gave her attention and weren’t super young or boyish. But I was wrong. Celeste was literally obsessed with her sick desires and addicted to it. She broke every stereotype you could have ever had about women who sleep with underage kids. We've all heard about things like that happening, but I think most of us probably thought there was always some reason, some emotional reason, and we never really associate it with the same type of illness and wrongness that we do with adult males sleeping with underage kids.
Reading Tampa took me into her sick thoughts and shocked me absolutely. I was not expecting that. I almost put it down because, while I was flying through the pages, I was disgusted by every action, every thought she had, and the way she obsessed. How could I possibly enjoy reading this? It tested my limits. But it was well written and Celeste’s obsession had a certain pull to it. Would she find a boy? Would she succeed in her quest to bed him? Would she get caught? What would happen? I was intrigued. Tampa was horrifying, sick, and was remarkable in the sense that it displayed the mind of a pedophile so well. Never in a million years would I have expected the narrator to have thought those terrible thoughts, been so driven, and so vulgar.
It was ground breaking and I was shocked at the way it handed and the attitudes of the characters in the book. It brings up some very interesting points about beauty and gender and the way we view pretty women and what we will let them get away with. I even admit that had Tampa been about a male teacher lusting after female students, I would have probably thrown it across the room out of disgust and I don’t think it would have ever been published in the first place. I also admit that when I first started, I never expected a woman to be quite so vulgar and crave so many lurid things and be vocal about those cravings. But that’s how we look at the issue of sex in general and I think that’s partly the point and why Tampa was so incredibly vulgar. While I get that Tampa was vulgar to make a point, I also think it's ridiculous that it was allowed to be when that would never be allowed had Celeste been a male character. I also feel like some of the obsession was over the top and unbelievable, but then I wonder if that's because of my preconceived notions are about women and sex. Is my brain telling me that women can't be vulgar and obsessed with sex or is that really not so far off with sex criminals? Part of Tampa's allure and success is because it makes you ask those kinds of questions and second guess yourself.
I would not recommend this book to anyone, but that is simply because I don’t want to put myself in a place where I’m telling someone to read something that will so completely push their boundaries. That is uncomfortable. Books like these are read on your own and are books that you’ve picked up yourself and essentially only have yourself to blame when it punches you in the face. I’m still disturbed by it, but I’m glad I read it and I love the questions it forces you to ask. Part of me wonders if the book really had to be so in your face and shocking, though. Could it have made similar points without going through Celeste’s detailed fantasies AND actions? Could it have just been a little less… OMG/TMI? And half of me says yes and the other half disagrees.
Labels: crime, literary fiction, Review, women